Since writing my original Top Ten Tips for Living on a Budget, I’ve really honed in on the budget and we’re significantly closer to financial freedom than we were nine months ago! We’ve come a long way since that post and I am nearly student loan and debt free, with a complete goal of being debt free by January 1st, 2020, I decided to round up another set of ten tips to help you pinch pennies and put some money aside when you feel like you’re already stretched thin.
1. Fill Your Tank.
So I actually did the math on this one and on average I was stopping for gas and putting about a quarter tank in every other day, that’s about $60, where as when I fill the tank on Sunday for $40, I know it will last me to the next Sunday. By filling up completely once a week, for whatever reason I don’t need to get gas as much, I’m sure there’s some sort of car science behind it but I’ll live in my happy oblivion and just cherish the money saved.
2. Join Loyalty Programs.
I’m not talking store credit cards, I’m talking free programs like the Cumberland Farms SmartPay, CVS Extra Care Rewards, and Price Chopper Fuel Advantage. With an email address and smartphone you can start saving money on stuff you always buy. With Cumberland Farms Smart Pay you get ten cents off of every gallon of gas, and after 50 gallons, you get a free coffee or soft drink. It doesn’t seem like much, but with the fluctuating gas prices, it really is a godsend and it’s as easy as using the smartphone app to pay for gas and in store purchases, plus they throw you rewards on the random just for being a member. I’ve preached about CVS in my couponing article, but recently thanks to their rewards program, extra care bucks, and a killer sale, I bought two packs of Huggies diapers for a total of $9.40 (originally on sale for 2/$20), and if that doesn’t sell you on shopping there and saving some serious cash I don’t know what will. The Price Chopper Fuel Advantage program is a free program that rewards you in money off of gas by purchasing groceries, coming with some sweet coupon perks and sales pricing in store, it’s worth the extra tag on the key chain.
3. Downsize Where You Can.
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re accidental minimalists and we are loving it! We cut out the extra stuff we didn’t need, we downsized our living space, and honestly the only thing we’ve lost is an unnecessary amount of clutter and materialistic things. We have one car between the two of us because that’s what makes sense for our family, and financially that helped us tremendously. We’re lucky because we have the schedule and resources to downsize, but obviously for some people that’s not always the case, but even if it means cutting out that gym membership you never use or finally saying goodbye to cable, take a quick peek at your monthly subscriptions and see where you can maybe trim the fat from the spending.
4. Learn to Cook the Good Stuff.
Since we started hardcore towards our financial freedom trail, take out and dining out have been something we try to avoid. (Listen, no ones perfect but we have definitely decreased the pizza budget.) It’s one thing to learn to cook at home, but when you’re craving some crab Rangoons and hot and sour soup but can’t justify spending the $30 on Chinese take out and frozen food just won’t do it, you get pretty desperate. Thanks to the good ol’ internet, I’ve learned to cook pretty well in the past few months, from homemade Chinese food to Fried Pickles, I’ve learned a lot of what we pay mucho dinero for in a restaurant can be made pretty easily at home, and I don’t have to wear shoes or a bra to eat it, so that’s always a plus.
5. Laundry Pods.
I can’t take the credit for this one since it was all my in laws idea, but for a while we we’re cruising through a loooot of liquid laundry detergent, so they decided to switch over to laundry pods and suddenly a $8 package of laundry pods can get us well through a months worth of laundry, where normally we’d pick detergent up once a week. The idea behind why the laundry pods are budget friendly is quantity control, instead of throwing three caps of detergent into the washer at once (guilty… sorry friends) you simply toss one pod in per load and you’re cruising. It eliminates excessive usage when you don’t need it, limiting waste and allowing for more laundry to be done for what you spend on detergent.
How does sleeping effect your ability to budget better and save money? It eliminates the need for on the go pick me ups, kills you’re want for that donut, makes you way less cranky and willing to breakdown you’re budget over pick me up purchases (those therapeutic target trips… again guilty.) and you feel overall better. Self care is a detrimental part of being successful in literally every aspect of your life, so take the time to get some proper shut eye!
7. Save the Coins.
Recently I cleaned out my car and gathered all my change into a little tupperware container in the center console, I haven’t counted it yet, but anytime I spend any cash at all, I put the coins into my wallet and then right into my little container and it is growing into quite the hefty fund. On those days when I absolutely can’t avoid fast food (ya gurl gets hangry when she’s eating for two) I simply reach into my little change compartment and use that to pay for my on the road splurges. Save your coins in a convenient place where you can see where they add up and use them to supplement your regular spending, or save up and cash them in. Quite literally every penny helps.
8. Drink from the Tap.
We are so fortunate to live in a city that has pretty good tap water, and by carrying around a reusable water bottle, I have circumvented the “holy crap I’m dying of thirst in the middle of Walmart” scenario where I cave and bump up the budget by the however much my spur of the moment drink choice is. Also I have never been a person to buy a case of plastic water bottles since it just seems so wasteful, but water has so many health benefits we’re stupid not to drink it.
9. Get Creative with Leftovers
If you’re serious about saving money then you have to learn to eat the leftovers without complaining, and nothing says a successful remake than getting creative with you’re cooking. Taco meat leftovers turn into taco salads, tortillas can be made in quesadillas, and any rice and beans I’ll just eat two hours later because I love some good Spanish rice. Chili can go great on top of tortilla chips as nachos, or throw it in an omelet for a delicious and hearty breakfast. Anything can be made into a new meal if you try hard enough, and luckily for me, I had not only my moms expert leftover cooking skills to follow in line with, but my mother in laws as well. Strong independent women know how to serve last nights dinner as tomorrows lunch without batting an eye.
10. Whats Old is New Again.
Do yourself a favor, every few months when you’re feeling blah about your wardrobe or your living room just isn’t how you visioned it in your dreams, rearrange the crap out of it. Take all your clothes out and refold them, reorganize that bureau and find all the hidden gems you forgot you had because they were buried in the back of your drawers. Move the couch, change out the position of the coffee table, and rearrange those throw pillows, heck swap the throw pillows for a different blanket you had in the linen closet and watch the feel of the room change completely. Before you decide to go buy a bunch of new stuff because you’re feeling blah, try and move stuff around to put new life into it. Feeling crafty? Dry upcycling or DIYing your way into a new stylish shirt or decorative throw rug. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can always give him a good bath and blow dry.
I know it doesn’t seem like much but when you’re biggest goal in life is financial freedom, even the smallest of changes and shortcuts can help you to reach your goal. We’re getting closer everyday to our financial goals and hopefully with these creative and somewhat goofy tips, you can eventually get there too.